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N227TB accident description

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Crash location 42.311389°N, 85.245277°W
Nearest city Battle Creek, MI
42.321152°N, 85.179714°W
3.4 miles away
Tail number N227TB
Accident date 27 Aug 2015
Aircraft type Barrow Ted A One Easy
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 27, 2015, about 2017 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt One Easy airplane, N227TB, impacted terrain at the W K Kellogg Airport (KBTL), Battle Creek, Michigan. The airplane was destroyed and the private rated pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Gospelnet, Inc., under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and the airplane was not on a flight plan. The flight was originating from KBTL at the time of the accident.

The pilot had flown the airplane into KBTL arrived earlier that day; people who met the pilot reported that there was oil on the back of the airplane. They recalled that the pilot wiped the oil off the airplane and told them he had not put the engine oil cap on tight.

For the evening departure, the tower controller cleared the pilot to taxi to runway 23R. While trying to exit the FBO (Fixed Based Operator) ramp, a business jet was entering the ramp; once the accident pilot moved his airplane to the side, the jet entered the ramp and the accident pilot taxied towards the runway for departure.

Then shortly afterwards, the tower controller cleared the airplane for takeoff. The controller reported that airplane "wandered" on the runway and did not track a straight line; then continued to fly erratically once airborne. The airplane made a 180-degree turn and flew back down runway 5L, before making another 180-degree turn, towards runway 23R. The controller added that the airplane made a sudden nosedive during the turn towards the runway and impacted the ground.

An FBO employee, who was watching the accident plane depart, got another employee's attention, adding that the airplane was "bouncing" back and forth. The employee noticed the airplane, and saw that the wings were rocking back and forth during the takeoff. She added that she did not know the position of the canopy; however, the canopy was open and the pilot was clearly visible with no glass over his head. The airplane turned around and came back to the runway for a landing. A parked airplane blocked her view, and she did not see the crash.

The airport's security cameras captured portions of the accident sequence. Additionally, the FBO witness recorded on a camera phone, a video of the airplane's initial taxi from the FBO's ramp to the taxi way.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. The pilot held a third class medical certificate that was issued on March 25, 2014. The pilot reported on his application for a medical certificate that he had 1,500 total flight hours, with 0 hours in the preceding six months.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was listed as a Barrow One Easy, powered by a rear-mounted Continental O-200 reciprocating engine rated at 100 horsepower, and drove a fix-pitched, composite propeller. The airplane was built from plans, and is typically known as the Rutan Varieze; two seats in tandem, canard configuration, and composite construction. The airplane received its Special Airworthiness Certificate in the amateur-build category in November, 1992. A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records revealed that the airplane had gone through several owners, and the accident pilot had purchased the airplane in April, 2015.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1953, the automated weather observation facility located at KBTL recorded: wind from 100 degrees at 5 knots, 10 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 3,600 ft, temperature 66 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 54 F, and a barometric pressure of 30.16 inches of mercury.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

The WK Kellogg Airport (KBTL) is a public-use, with an operating control tower, located 3 miles west Battle Creek Michigan. The airport has three runways; 5L/23R asphalt runway, 10,004 ft by 150 ft; 5R/23L asphalt runway, 4,100 ft by 75 ft; and 13/31 asphalt runway 4,835 ft by 100 ft.

COMMUNICATIONS

The tower controller cleared the pilot to taxi to 23R, via taxiway delta or bravo. While taxing, the pilot crossed an active runway and stopped at the wrong taxiway. The controller advised the pilot that he missed the taxiway, and crossed an active runway without clearance. The controller then cleared the pilot to line up and wait, followed by an immediate clearance for takeoff. The controller then asked if he was ready or not. Shortly afterwards the pilot departed and the controller asked the pilot, if everything was okay. No response was given. The controller then cleared the pilot to 5L, then shortly afterwards cleared the pilot to any runway. Only a garbled broadcast with the number 23 in the transmission was heard, and assumed to be the accident pilot.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane impacted terrain on the airport property, located next to the intersection of runway 05L/23R and runway 13/31. A post-crash fire consumed a majority of the fuselage and wing structure of the airplane.

A check of the runway after the accident, found an empty oil bottle, with the bottom cut out; typically used as a funnel, to add engine oil with. The oil bottle was the same brand/type of oil (bottles) that were found in the wreckage.

After an initial documentation of the airplane wreckage, the wreckage was removed to a hangar for further examination.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Western Michigan University, Homer Stryker, M.D. School of Medicine, conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was determined to be, "multiple blunt injuries".

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. The specimens were negative for carbon monoxide, ethanol, and tested drugs. Cyanide testing was not performed.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The examination of the fuselage wreckage revealed that most of the cabin/cockpit area was consumed in the post-crash fire. Only pieces of the canopy lock system and canopy were located. Additionally, the majority of the flight controls were consumed by the post-crash fire. The engine had received extensive thermal damage; the magnetos could not be tested. The carburetor and gascolator did not contain any residual fuel, but had also received fire damage. The fuel screen in the carburetor was clear of any debris. When rotated, engine continuity through the valve train and engine was confirmed.

Video reviews

The phone video was reviewed. The video showed the airplane taxiing from the FBO ramp to the parallel taxiway. The bubble canopy appears to be "bouncing" open, as much as two inches at time, as the airplane taxied onto the taxiway. The airplane is videoed from the right side.

A review of the airport's security video revealed the airplane taxiing from the FBO ramp to the runway. Only part of the take-off was captured on video; the airplane was then captured flying downwind. The video quantity was not detailed enough to determine the position of the canopy. The airplane made a 180-degree right turn back to the active runway. During the turn, the airplane appeared to bank in excess of 90 degrees. As the bank reached about 90-degrees, the airplane rapidly drops altitude and impacted terrain. A post-crash fire then erupts.

Family members provided several photographs of the airplane before the accident. The photos revealed that the canopy opened on the left side (hinged on the right side).

An airplane checklist was located among the wreckage. The BEFORE TAKEOFF portion of the checklist had: "Canopy Locked RT & LT side"

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot’s loss of airplane control due to his diverted attention to the canopy opening in flight.

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